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OLED vs ULED: TV Technology explained



If all the different technologies around TVs have you in a twist, then stay calm: here’s a simple primer on the differences between two of the major TV technologies you’ve probably been hearing about.

Walk into an electronics shop these days and there’s a dizzying amount of different TV tech on display. When you just want to get the best TV for your home, it can be an overwhelming experience trying to get your head around everything that’s on offer.

Two of the technologies you will hear about are OLED and ULED. While they sound quite similar, there are a lot of fundamental differences between them. Let’s have a look at what the two different terms mean and — more importantly — what they mean when it comes to your home entertainment set-up!



If you’re ever asked at a trivia night, or just want to show off at the pub some time, then OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode. It’s a very different technology to LED or LCD TVs. Every pixel of an OLED TV provides its own illumination and can be turned off and on individually, whereas an LED TV needs a backlight. This has a few benefits for OLED when it comes to TV images.


Blackest blacks

One of the biggest pros when it comes to OLED — and the one you’ll see mentioned most often — is the way an OLED can reproduce blacks on screen. Because every pixel can be turned off, you get a true black, whereas an LED TV needs to dim the brightness for the same effect (more on this later). This also means OLED TVs have a great contrast ratio, which is just a fancy way of talking about the difference between how bright and how dark a TV can get.


Power hungry

On the other hand, there are a few areas where OLED doesn’t perform as well as LED. Brightness is one of them. While the contrast on OLED is impressive, it doesn’t quite match the raw brightness that LED panels are capable of. If you’re conscious of your power consumption, then OLED might raise an eyebrow come bill time — OLED TVs still use a bit more power than their counterparts. Finally, the initial outlay isn’t cheap, or at least not cheap compared to the TV prices we’re used to seeing these days.



So what’s ULED then? Well unlike OLED it’s not actually a single technology. ULED, or Ultra LED, is the term Hisense uses for a collection of 20 different patents around four key areas: Ultra Wide Colour Gamut, Ultra Local Dimming, Ultra 4K Resolution and Ultra Smooth Motion Rate. As the name suggests, this is an LED TV technology, but those propriety patents all work to enhance the viewing experience at home.



ULED TVs have a wide palette and are capable of reproducing a really broad array of colours for images that look brighter and more detailed. Without getting into the heavy terminology or too many numbers, the current industry requirements for the Ultra HD Premium standard require a TV to be able to display 90 percent of the colours defined by something called the DCI-P3 — the U7A ULED TV can display 99.98 percent.



As mentioned before, OLED achieves blacks by simply turning off pixels. ULED uses something called local dimming instead. The panel on the U7A is divided into many different zones, each of which can be dimmed and brightened independently of the others. This allows for a very good contrast range as well as great detail when it comes to shadows.



All ULED TVs are 4K Ultra High-Definition when it comes to the screen resolution. That’s a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 (sometimes called 2160p). That’s four times the number of pixels compared to a Full HD TV. With the right 4K content, this means a sharper and more detailed image than you’ve ever seen before. OLED doesn’t have a specific resolution tied to the technology — we’ve seen both 4K and Full HD OLED TVs recently.



ULED TVs all use a system called UltraSmooth Motion, which is basically a clever algorithm for the TV to create and insert frames into a video, making for smoother transitions. This gets paired with something called Backlight Scanning and the end result is that your fast action films don’t look blurry, and brighter objects can move through dark backgrounds without getting that distracting ‘halo’ effect.

This is just scratching the surface when it comes both OLED and ULED — there’s a lot of very smart, very high-tech wizardry that goes into both. But hopefully when you’re looking for your next TV, you’ll be armed with a little bit more knowledge when it comes to the fast-moving world of TV technology.